Exclusive: Here’s Why Nissan Recommends Changing LEAF Brake Fluid Annually

3 years ago by Mike Anthony 69

The Nissan LEAF.

The Nissan LEAF.

A recent topic was brought up in regards to the Nissan LEAF recommending an annual brake service, including changing the brake fluid.

Straight from the Service and Maintenance Guide

Straight from the Service and Maintenance Guide

According to The Nissan LEAF’s Service and Maintenance Guide, it is recommended to change the brake fluid every 12 months, 15,000 miles. —–>

Several online forum posters thought this was a way for Nissan to make money off customers, while only a few thought it was nothing to be concerned over and did not mind this annual annual service.

This annual service, including the brake fluid change, is claimed to cost ~$125 dollars

However, it is understandable that many would ask why Nissan recommends this annual service, seeing how some vehicles have a brake fluid interval upwards of over 100,000 miles.  The LEAF calls for “Genuine NISSAN Super Heavy Duty Brake Fluid or equivalent DOT 3.

The Boiling Point Of DOT 3 Brake Fluid Is Affected Dramatically By The Amount Of Moisture/Water In The Mix

The Boiling Point Of DOT 3 Brake Fluid Is Affected Dramatically By The Amount Of Moisture/Water In The Mix

I was eager to find answers because I was curious as well. So, I went directly to the source, Nissan.

During a live chat, I asked a few questions to find out exactly why Nissan calls for this annual brake fluid service.

Read the following chat closely:

Live Chat with Nissan. 1/2

Live Chat with Nissan. 1/2

Live Chat with Nissan. 2/2

Live Chat with Nissan. 2/2. Carrying a bit over from the other screen shot of conversation.

I did feel it was necessary to edit out the service provider’s name, but to show the entire conversation. No rigs.

So, with what you have just read above in mind, a matter of ~$125 dollars a year to ensure the longevity, efficiency, and effectiveness of the LEAF’s braking systems and components is fine by us.  Do you agree?

We believe that it is highly important to follow the service and maintenance guide for any vehicle out there. From a small little quibble to a very severe issue that could arise, why take that chance?

We are uncertain if other all electric vehicles recommend brake fluid change intervals annually, but we are eager to find that out and will provide a follow up for when & if.

We were impressed by how well the service provider handled this. Very polite and professional. Hat tip again to Nissan!

*Editor’s note: This was from the 2014 Nissan LEAF service and maintenance guide. This cyber conversation was held on August 19th, 2014.  We can correctly assume that this also applies to the 2013 & 2015 LEAF, as the components are mostly the same.

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69 responses to "Exclusive: Here’s Why Nissan Recommends Changing LEAF Brake Fluid Annually"

  1. CherylG says:

    So the annual cost of maintaining a LEAF is not less than a similarly sized ICE Nissan after all.

    1. Phatcat73 says:

      CherylG, are you affiliated, in any capacity with BP, Chevron or some other OPEC affiliate?

      You fail to mention the cost of an oil change and the amortized cost of transmission fluid flush along with brake/rotor replacements.

    2. And tune-ups, and filters, and belts, etc, etc. (rolls eyes)

      1. Turbofroggy says:

        Brake fluid change is recommended not mandatory. The only think that is mandatory is the battery check, which is free for the first 3 years of ownership. On a 2-3 year lease on a Leaf it is entirely possible to spend zero on maintenance. The last two Leafs we have had, we spent zero maintenance.

    3. MrEnergyCzar says:

      Sounds like non-sense. This is no different than a dealer recommending you get an alignment every 5,000 miles or a Volt oil change every 12 months. They have to figure out how to keep feeding the service dept which is where a lot of the profits are made…

      1. Bonaire says:

        Only necessary if you commute down a mountain daily, got it. My Volt brake pads and rotors inspect “as-new” after 42,000 miles. I need to taste my brake fluid to see if it tastes new or used. That is what my grandpappy taught me on his old Dusenberg.

    4. GSP says:

      ROFLOL!

      CherylG is desperate indeed.

      GSP

    5. MDEV says:

      You are back please let me know how much and I’ll pay a fly ticket one way for free to a place with no internet.

  2. Nick says:

    I just took my leaf to a Nissan dealership for the annual battery check, and they did not even mention a brake fluid change. That said, I am not convinced that one was needed with only 7000 miles on the vehicle.

  3. I’m a former auto technician. I’ve performed hundreds of brake fluid changes. It is a necessary service. Not changing your brake fluid will lead to more expensive repairs later.

    Brake fluid is hydroscopic. It absorbs water (from condensation). It also accumulates debris from the internal moving parts (brake pistons rubbing against cylinders)

    This can be easily seen by looking at old brake fluid vs new brake fluid. Not changing the fluid allows premature wear of the seals and pitting on the cylinders and pistons.

    It would be very foolish to skip servicing of a vital safety system like brakes. Brake cylinders and calipers are expensive to replace. A life is priceless.

    1. Turbofroggy says:

      I am going to strongly disagree here. Brake fluid should ONLY be changed if it tests high in water content via test strip or tester. Changing it just to change it on some kind of interval is a huge waste of money and just goes to make the payment on the service writers boat.

    2. kubel says:

      First, no one is suggesting they should skip changing the fluid altogether. We are just suggesting that 1 year / 15,000 miles is unnecessary without knowing that the fluid is bad.

      Second, as an ex-auto technician, you should know that there are methods to check brake fluid health (measure boiling point, measure water content with a strip, measure copper content with a strip) which are cheaper than doing a fluid change.

      Changing brake fluid every year would be silly if it wasn’t a total racket for the dealerships.

    3. Checking the brake fluid from the top does nothing to flush out the dirty fluid in the calipers where the wear occurs.

      It’s kind of amazing to see what comes out of a supposedly sealed brake system. Do a brake flush yourself sometime, or ask a technician to show you dirty fluid. Ask to see some pitted pistons and cylinders. Most shops have a set on the shelf to show what happens when you don’t follow the recommended service intervals.

      I don’t make a penny from brake services now. I have nothing to gain if you change your fluid or not.

      Whether or not Nissans recommended service interval is more often than necessary is up to the owner to decide. But I can tell you for sure that the folks who kept their car up always paid less in total than those who waited for stuff to break.

      Fortunately, this is one of those things that is easily verified with your own eyes.

    4. Gibber says:

      *Hy-gro-scopic.

  4. Phatcat73 says:

    Article doesn’t mention the service booklets recommendation and the difference between the extreme vs the normal guidance.

    Per the normal guidance, I will change the fluid every 2 years (Chicago land environment).

    I also thought the regenerative braking system was exclusive of the braking system/fluid.

    1. sven says:

      I thought all car manufacturers consider stop and go city driving a severe (extreme) service interval, not a normal service interval.

      Think about it, you use your brakes much more for city driving than for highway driving.

      1. Bonaire says:

        After stop and go traffic, my Volt brakes are still cold to the touch. I do plan on the scheduled fluid changes for the engine and transmission eventually which is what does the majority of braking. I doubt most service techs do the water test of he brake fluid. They usually just pressure the owner into the service through their “hey joe, got a minute?” Discussions

  5. Marshal G says:

    Sounds like the dealerships are whining for compensation for lost ICE maintenance revenue. The Model 3 keeps looking better every day.

    1. Bonaire says:

      Tesla does offer their $600 service agreement. They also have extended warranties too. The real answer is truthful practices in building vehicles without a need for constant maintenance. I cannot see how traditional dealerships could survive long term if they rely as much as they do on little-old-lady service engagements for $400 oil changes.

  6. Turbofroggy says:

    Brake fluid should only be changed when it tests bad via a brake fluid test strip or tester. Changing it on an interval is a complete waste of money. A Leaf on a 2-3 year lease should expect to spend zero on maintenance. Don’t buy any maintenance agreements when leasing/buying a Leaf, they are a waste of money. Brake fluid and cabin filter changes are only recommended. The only mandatory service is the free yearly battery check.

  7. John Hollenberg says:

    I drive 80% of my miles on the freeway and don’t use the brakes much even in city driving (that’s what regen is for). I am on the normal schedule and change the brake fluid every 2 years. My guess is that the “extreme” schedule was taken from ICE cars, not independently determined.

  8. DaveMart says:

    ‘We were impressed by how well the service provider handled this. Very polite and professional.’

    Unless I’ve missed something, they in no way explained why this was so when:
    ‘some vehicles have a brake fluid interval upwards of over 100,000 miles.’

    I saw no reason for the difference given.

    1. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

      Perhaps the 100k vehicle was largely highway miles, and strip-testing the fluid showed that it was still good?

      1. DaveMart says:

        I’ve just checked on my car, and it seems that brake fluids are checked yearly, but only changed when necessary.

  9. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

    I wonder if a brake fluid filter with a dessicant would be practical? Circulate the fluid thru it to remove debris and water, and make it fairly easily accessible for visual examination and changing..

    1. Nix says:

      Brake fluid doesn’t circulate. It sits static in the lines, moving back and forth only as far as the brake pistons travel.

  10. vdiv says:

    A coworker just went through the brake fluid change and was very unhappy about having to do it so often and it not being covered.
    In addition he had to get a front wheel alignment as indicated by the uneven wear on the tires. However the service department did not rotate the tires, he had to insist. And of course there was the battery health check.

    He leases the LEAF so this unexpected maintenance cost did a small number on his budget. He is very unhappy and is considering going back to a gas car when his lease expires in 16 months.

    I am dumbfounded.

    1. Bonaire says:

      42k miles on my Volt in two years, two oil changes, one warranty fix recently for fuel tank pressure pump. Otherwise, no other work. The dealer doesn’t push these irregular off book maintenance. Have your friend consider a Volt.

      1. vdiv says:

        I did try to convince him on the Volt, but he had an affinity to Nissan and the LEAF. The lease they offered him could not be matched.

        Now we’re back to square one trying to put things into perspective, concentrate on the positive, stay electric.

        Not all EV drivers are die hard fans, that was my slap in the face.

    2. Oppy says:

      Me too, 52k on the Volt, over 2 years and only scheduled maintenance has been tire rotations, and 2 bottles of wiper fluid. Heard the LEAF uneven tire wear complaints before – I’ve tried hard to make the LEAF a recommendable electric car, but at this point I think what it needs most is a nationwide competitor from another brand with a better engineering team…or just go Volt.

      1. david_cary says:

        Give me a break. 16k miles, 17 months. One trip to dealer for battery check and they did annual state inspection also.

        The brake fluid check is a joke. If it in fact was needed the Volt would need it too

    3. Murrysville EV says:

      My Leaf’s tires wore unevenly, but the alignment was just fine. Turns out the tires had different circumferences, and so did the replacement tires (different brand). There was about 1/4″ to 3/8″ difference between them. They must be properly inflated when measuring, and of course the tire must be jacked up off the ground.

      The answer is to place the larger tires on the right side; this makes the car track straight and dramatically extends their life.

    4. Turbofroggy says:

      The uneven tire wear was not caused by alignment, it was caused by not enough pressure in the tires and not rotating them. Forget the factory 38 lbs, put 44 lbs in them and rotate every 5000 miles. The Leaf is much heavier than a car with 205/55/16 tires and needs more pressure to maintain the proper contact patch. Stock pressures and no rotation and you’ll need new front tires before 25K miles.

  11. pjwood says:

    Never seen fluid go brown in 1 yr. I don’t know that this chat suggested that there’s anything hydrolic about Leaf regen. If it is pedal/master cyl/lines/calipers, I wouldn’t see it different.

  12. Big Solar says:

    My I-Miev needs the gearbox oil changed every 20k miles. I was surprised by this but they showed me the oil after 22k and it did need to be changed but it was under 10 bucks so no big deal but I was still surprised. I would not change the brake fluid out every year on any car.

    1. That’s bulls**t too. Changed color of oil is normal during use and does not mean the has gone bad.

  13. K-lein says:

    Here is the thing I don’t understand :

    Conventional cars (mostly with automatic gearboxes) depend almost 100% of the time on the conventionnal braking system (which needs braking fluid) to slow the car down.

    Electric cars have a significant part of braking taken care of by the engine through regenerative braking, the conventional braking system is used less often and with less intensity.

    By what kind of magic phenomenon does a system which is used less often can become compromised so fast ? It doesn’t make any sense.

    1. Nick says:

      One possiblity: less frequent use of the friction breaks provides less opportunity for water to be boiled out of the brake fluid?

      Also, the friction brakes have to work much harder on a LEAF if the pack is full, and they have no fall back options. So having them in top shape is critical.

      1. alohart says:

        For the brake fluid to reach water’s boiling point, the brakes would have to be worked very hard. Even if this occurred, the water vapor would not be able to escape and would form bubbles in the brake fluid which would be dangerous (water vapor, unlike brake fluid, is compressible). But when the brake fluid cooled, the water vapor would condense back into the brake fluid, so the problem would not be cured.

        Sure, when a Leaf’s battery pack is full, no regen is available so friction brakes must be used. But that’s no different from an ICE vehicle where the friction brakes are always used yet the brake fluid needn’t be changed annually.

        I can’t imagine why the brake fluid of a Leaf would need to be changed more often than any other vehicle. Seems fishy to me…

        1. Nick says:

          That’s a good point.

  14. Fool Cells says:

    what does Tesla recommend on this? And is this different than a ICE car?

  15. David says:

    This chat log doesn’t clear up anything. Sounds like typical misinformation from an uninformed customer service person making stuff up.

    Regen has no relation to the hydraulic brakes. The Volt’s braking system is equivalent to the LEAFs. Its engine doesn’t have anything to do with braking.

    1. Murrysville EV says:

      Exactly. This is just a money-making scheme from Nissan.

      My Leaf has had 2 annual inspections at the dealer; they never once mentioned brake fluid.

      Regen has nothing to do with brake fluid.

      The Leaf’s front brake pads are used on the following vehicles:
      Frontier, NV200, Pathfinder, Xterra

      The Leaf’s rear brake pads are used on the entire Nissan and Infiniti line.

      The Leaf also shares brake calipers with other vehicles. I’m sure they don’t require annual brake fluid changes.

      Having said all that, I would change fluid every 5 years at the most. Jammed brake calipers aren’t nice.

  16. Ken_3 says:

    Most owners manuals recommend every 2 years. As mentioned, brake fluid will absorb water from the air. Regardless of usage. If you live in a dry climate I would expect the fluid to last longer. The use of a test strip is a good one. You can change the fluid yourself if you are competent enough.

  17. TomArt says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever changed the brake fluid on any car I’ve owned, regardless of mileage…whether it was a 35k mile Scion xA manual, a 120k mile Dodge Intrepid automatic, or my current 43k mile Mercury Mariner hybrid. It’s not engine oil…it’s not even transmission fluid (which has a long replacement interval)…odd.

    It wouldn’t even occur to me unless the mechanic would say something to me about it.

    1. TomArt says:

      Just reading this post, and typing that last comment, leaves me wanting a Tesla so much more…stupid ICE…

  18. CherylG's_DirtyLittleSecret says:

    So do not top off a LEAF’s charge and brake regen is more useful and saves the brake fluid.

    IMHO, it’s crap to have to change it that often. I agree with most, the NADA freaks need revenue.

  19. Michael S says:

    FWIW, here’s the Model S maintenance schedule:

    Every 8,000 km rotate tires
    Every 1 year, inspection
    Every 2 years, flush/replace brake fluid
    Every 4 years, replace battery coolant
    Every 40,000 km miles, replace cabin air filter

    Source: Model S owner’s manual
    http://prius20.ru/instructions/tesla_manual.pdf

    1. Michael S says:

      And here it is for the US market (miles, rather than km):

      http://files.meetup.com/6175892/ModelS_Annual_Service-1.pdf

      1. Rich says:

        If I’m reading this correctly, the Model S has No interval set for brake fluid replacement.

        1. Michael S says:

          Look at the first row. “R” stands for replace, and there is a check box at “Year 2/24 K miles” and “Year 4/48 K miles.”

          Considering each annual service costs $600 regardless of the amount of work performed, if I were a Model S owner, I’d only do the servicing every two years.

  20. Perdita says:

    When I first saw that item (Brake Flush and Purge) on the service manual. I thought ‘what a crock’ as well.

    But then i took a look at the service manuals of the ICE Altima and Sentra. Guess what they recommend the exact same brake fluid replacement interval as the Leaf.

    So its not just a EV thing, its a Nissan thing. Their Brake system is higher maintenance than any other manufacturer I checked for similar cars. Ford Fusion, Toyota HyCam/Prius, Honda Accord, Chevy Volt all have Brake service listed at over 100k miles, if it listed at all in their service manuals.

    So I’d say either Nissan is covering their ass (and throwing a bone to their Dealership network’s service departments), or there’s something deficient in their Braking system design.

    1. Alonso Perez says:

      +1

      I would not worry about it too much.

  21. DonC says:

    The headline got my attention because I have always wondered why you’d need to change the brake fluid so often on a Leaf. Seems bizarre.

    Unfortunately I don’t think I’m any better informed after reading the article. The Nissan Customer Service representative was very nice but didn’t have anything even remotely interesting to say. The part about the Volt not being an electric car was a priceless non sequitur. Something like:

    You: Why did this cost so much?
    Them: Look, it’s a bird!
    You: Yes, that is a bird. Thank you so much for the explanation.

  22. GeneS says:

    FYI, for a Volt:

    150,000 miles, or 10 years. Which ever comes first.

  23. Francisco says:

    Wow. The first half of that chat made me really angry. It was nothing but propaganda, vague non-answers, and misinformation about the Volt. Obviously that person had no technical knowledge (no idea what the fliud has to do with regen, etc.) Way too much logical inconsistency, ignoring other evidence/examples, and evading the real questions in there to give it any credence. Plus, it’s the classic case of asking the tire salesman if he thinks your tires need to be replaced.

    1. Stimpacker says:

      +1 Francisco

      The Nissan representative showed lack of knowledge and this article is equally useless. I won’t even bother to elaborate why. Sorry to slam it.

  24. DNAinaGoodWay says:

    What is the number, when testing for water in the fluid, at which changing it would be advisable?

    1. DNAinaGoodWay says:

      “Even New Cars Contain Water in Their Brake Fluid!

      It is well know that automotive brake fluid is “Hygroscopic.” This means that in a relatively short period of time, brake fluid will absorb moisture directly from the air; even in a sealed braking system.
       
      The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) conducted a recent study of automotive brake fluid. They found that an average one-year-old car had 2% moisture in its brake fluid. Randomly tested cars in the U.S., with an average age of eight years, showed an average water content of greater than 2 ½%. Of these cars, 25% had a dangerously high water content of 4% or more.”

      From: https://www.misco.com/digital-handheld-refractometer/digital-refractometer/brake-fluid-refractometer-dot3-water-boiling-point-dot3f#detailed_description-tab

    2. DNAinaGoodWay says:

      Also see: http://www.aa1car.com/library/bfluid.htm

      If testing shows anything over 2%, or 200 on a strip, I think I will change it.

      Thanks for the article.

      1. alohart says:

        Because brake fluid does not circulate and because the brake fluid reservoir has a vent to the atmosphere, the brake fluid in the reservoir almost certainly has a higher water content than the brake fluid at the brake cylinders where water is most dangerous. But the brake fluid available for testing is that in the reservoir, so a high water concentration there is almost certainly not representative.

      2. K-lein says:

        This is interesting (from the page you quoted)

        “What do the auto makers say about fluid changes? General Motors and Chrysler do not mention brake fluid in their scheduled maintenance recommendations. A General Motors spokesman said Delco Supreme 11 DOT 3 brake fluid contains additives than many other brake fluids do not, so it is essentially a lifetime fluid. Starting in 1993, GM began using a new type of rubber brake hose with an EPM lining and outer jacketing that reduces moisture penetration by 50%. So GM does not consider fluid contamination to be a significant problem.”

        I do not know if this is true, but I like it.
        Knowing that many people do not follow the maintenance recommandations, the safest thing to do is to spend a few extra $ designing a braking system and selecting a higher quality braking fluid so that it does not need such regular maintenance.

  25. ffbj says:

    Read through your owners manual or the manufacturers recommendations regarding their vehicles. Then ask yourself to what degree you have performed this maintenance, say in a car that you’ve owned for a decade. I doubt most people do, or have done, less than half the recommended maintenance, as most cars will run fine without it. I have changed brake pads a few times and had to add brake fluid, as you must bleed the brakes to remove air bubbles.
    Also since people are so helpless, or too busy, as to maintain their own cars they end up paying ridiculous prices to have them fixed or maintained. If you have it done through a dealership,that is probably the worst, most expensive thing you can do. So would not a manufacturer recommend over maintenance? In other words they have ulterior motives. Also legally if something goes wrong they can claim you did not perform the required maintenance. I do however agree that changing your oil on occasion is a good idea. Changing brake fluid? Rarely if ever.

  26. Bulls**t. Things that aren’t broken don’t need to be replaced.

  27. david_cary says:

    FWIW – BMW (and others) recommend changing fluid every 2 years. They do it for free with the included maintenance so no ulterior motive.

    I for one think it is a good idea at 2 years but I have to admit I rarely do it….

  28. Martin T. says:

    Volt is 5 years which is too long….
    Brake Fluid is Hydroscopic – ie it absorbs water.
    The complexity of the EV brake system means I will be changing every 2 years.

    Leaf every 1 – maybe they have a moisture ingress issue which why they recommend.

    if at home you have you have your own brake vac drain unit 15 minutes and it’s done.

    Years later you won’t have the bills should moisture ruin your brake system.

    You can live by a few years or if you keep a car a decade and half or more it’s worth a bit of Brake Fluid and especially coolant TLC.

    Dam cheaper in the long run 🙂

  29. Guy Hall says:

    I discussed this with some Nissan factory R&D engineers I know. Passing along what they said, and they are pretty knowledgeable folks. Ice vehicles, using conventional breaking over time tend to boil off some of the accumulated water. EVs with regen breaking don’t typically heat the breaking system often enough and retain more water, needing more frequent break fluid changes.

    I’ve used this on the past as a trivia question. “What shared part of car requires more maintenance in a EV than a gas car.

    This is not enough to ever make me want to buy a Gas car over an Electric. Have a leaf, volt and Tesla (and a left over Ford expedition).

  30. Rebeil Yarg says:

    When I first saw this article I thought that there might actually be something new about brake fluid changes for the LEAF, and I had to read this article several times before I realized that the author simply did not understand the topic he was writing about.

    Nissan DOES NOT recommend annual brake fluid changes for the LEAF except for very specific situations.

    For 95% of LEAF owners a 30,000 mile brake fluid duty cycle is normal.

    The exceptions are for severe duty situations which would include using the car primarily on unimproved roads, as a service, Police, or emergency vehicle, as a delivery vehicle, a Taxi, or as a commercial vehicle. If you don’t use your LEAF for one of these applications, then 30K or 2 years is a prudent and safe change interval.

    More sophisticated testing of your LEAFs hydroscopic condition with test strips may show that is is OK to extend the life of the brake fluid even longer.

    Nissan’s service and maintenance book does not help de-mystify this change interval because by placing the severe duty schedule first, it is easy not to read the entire schedule to find that the normal duty schedule is for the majority of situations.

    So in summary here is the maintenance schedule for the LEAF for normal use as described by Nissan:

    Every 7500 miles, rotate tires
    Every Year, battery health assessment
    Every 15000 miles, rotate tires, replace cabin air filter
    Every 30000 miles, Rotate tires, replace cabin air filter, replace brake fluid.

    That is it. Period.

  31. It’s important to note that you’re looking at the “MORE SEVERE” (Schedule 1) side of the maintenance guide, which only applies if you regularly drive on dirt roads and such. Most people will follow Schedule 2, on the right side, in which case they don’t recommend changing the brake fluid until 30,000 miles or 2 years.